‘Only Murders in the Building’: Why It’s Not Your Average Mystery Show

Do you ever wake up from an unexpectedly long nap that is either dismaying or surprisingly refreshing? Well, that’s what watching “Only Murders in the Building” is like, and luckily, it’s more than refreshing. The new series premiered Aug. 31 and stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and a notably excellent Selena Gomez. The show centers around these three inquisitive neighbors living in a lavish Manhattan apartment building, the Arconia. While they barely know one another, a popular true crime podcast is the one thing they unknowingly all have in common. When a young man is found dead in their building, they find out about their shared interests and their joint plan of action is to find out who killed him. 

The show first introduces audiences to Steve Martin and Martin Short, two pioneers in comedy who, with their coincidently similar names, should start a two-man show with their obvious tongue-in-cheek dynamic. Martin plays the lonesome Charles-Haden Savage, a famous actor from the 80s who is trying to relive his days as a TV detective. Short, who plays the vibrant Oliver Putnam, is an arguably successful off Broadway director who secretly struggles with debt. Lastly, Mabel Mora, played by Selena Gomez, is your stereotypical millennial who is both morose and temperamental with boomers. 

While the eccentricity of each character makes for a fun watch on its own, the murder of a young man in their building, Tim Kono, creates a clear sense of chaos and excitement for all three leads. What makes this show so much more clever than any other true crime show is the decision to center the story around a true crime podcast. 

Hulu

In the past few years, murder and true crime podcasts have become the number one escape from ordinary life for thousands of people. Listeners have become obsessed with figuring out the intricacies of killings and murders, almost as if they are the ones investigating. “Only Murders in the Building” perfectly understands this behavior and makes it an iconic trait of each main character. While Kono’s death is ruled as a suicide, Mabel, Charles and Oliver don’t seem to believe that there isn’t another killer. The result? Oliver somewhat successfully convinces the other two to begin their own podcast, hoping to find out who is the murderer in the Arconia.

The real brilliance of this show is that it accomplishes what a combination mystery and true crime show is supposed to, which is to act as an escape from audiences’ everyday lives, while also making them care just as much about the characters as they do the crime. While a true crime podcast seems like the only thing that connects these three characters, each episode shows there is evidently much more they have in common.

When a show stars two grandfatherly men and a 20-something woman, there is an expectation of a dynamic of polarity. However, after a couple episodes it is abundantly clear that Mabel, Charles and Oliver are all searching for a sense of purpose. Mabel is struggling with the grief of a friend, Charles is trying to feel comfortable in his loneliness and Oliver is looking to revive his memories of his theatre days, while also avoiding his financial struggles. They are all dealing with issues of different calibers, but these issues create a need for longing. They all know what it is like to lose something and, in this show, they get to help each other find themselves while also finding a murderer. 

With only five episodes out of the ten slated, the information left to be discovered is manifold. Who killed Tim Kono? Is Tie-Dye guy involved in the death? Why is Mabel holding a dead person in the first scene? Like any whodunit, there are a plethora of questions and possible answers. With the announcement of a season 2 on the way, staying patient while waiting for more is seemingly a challenge.

The first five episodes of season 1 of  “Only Murders in the Building” are now available to stream on Hulu.

By Cyna Mirzai

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